Highway 46

A truck drives along Highway 46 on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Roads don’t stop at city or even county lines — they’re a regional asset providing important connections.

In the past year, officials from Comal and Guadalupe counties as well as from the cities of New Braunfels and Seguin have begun working together to push road projects that would benefit the entire region. 

While officials feel progress is being made, they feel it could stand to move faster.

The MPO

“The way we’re able to work together at the (Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) has manifested in us being able to share the leadership, but also it’s given us a stronger voice when we talk to the MPO or interact with (the Texas Department of Transportation,” said Kevin Webb, Comal Precinct 3 Commissioner.

The organization, dubbed the AAMPO for short, directs state and federal funding toward mobility projects in Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Kendall counties. It projects the four-county region will add 1.5 million more residents in the next 35 years. 

Webb was recently appointed the vice chair of AAMPO’s transportation policy board in June.  He has served as Comal County’s AAMPO representative since 2013 and was appointed to its executive committee in 2016.

Most projects that come out of AAMPO go toward roads in San Antonio and Bexar County, Webb said. That fact drove several leaders from Comal and Guadalupe and and New Braunfels and Seguin to get together.

“It’s sort of a big complex problem we’re working together to address,” Webb said. “During the last meeting, which was in Guadalupe County, we were talking specifics with TxDOT who had representatives come.”

The Plan

In April, AAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board approved the long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan “Mobility 2045,” which approved hundreds of projects for funding through that year, including more than 50 major projects in Comal and Guadalupe counties.

The big focus of a regional meeting, which took place in May and had representatives present from Comal and Guadalupe counties, New Braunfels, Seguin, TxDOT and AAMPO, was to discuss future potential projects for the region — specifically potential solutions at the State Highway 46 and I-10 intersection. 

A notable Guadalupe County project approved in the the plan includes the expansion of  I-10 from four to six lanes, which will start between Alternate U.S. 90 and SH 130 in 2021. It won’t be done until 2028.

One solution for SH 46 and I-10 proposes using existing overpasses to create a highway connector that goes around Seguin’s current center rather than through it, creating no stop for traffic looking to go from Highway 46 to I-10.“It’s a right exit — it looks like you’re going to Seguin and going to I-10,” Webb said. “It goes under bridges and directly connects to I-10 so drivers are not going through that intersection, they’ll drop off right side and that will relieve a lot of traffic at that intersection.”

This is a partial solution that was incorporated into a TxDOT design and will be built as part of its current I-10 project, Webb said. 

“For them to say, ‘We can maybe work that into what we have going on,’ was a big step for us,” Webb said. 

The Projects

In March, the Comal County commissioners court passed a resolution stating representatives from Comal County, Guadalupe County, the city of New Braunfels and the city of Seguin identified several projects within the two-county region they would like to see included on the AAMPO’s 2050 MTP update.

Direct connectors were suggested at SH 46 and I-10 and at SH 46 and I-35, as well as the widening of SH 46 into a four-lane divided with left and right turn lanes.

Also suggested was added capacity on FM 758. 

“We support those and presented that to the MPO in a request for funding,” said Tom Hornseth, Comal County engineer.

Both counties and the cities of Seguin and New Braunfels share interests in other long-range projects. The MTP plans $230 million to widen SH 123, which wouldn’t begin until 2029. 

It designates $22 million to widen FM 725 between Zipp Road and Guadalupe-Comal line, slated to begin in 2022. A $26.9 million extension widening the road to FM 78 won’t launch until 2037. 

Unfunded projects include FM 306 between FM 1101 and FM 758; FM 1044 between I-35 and Weil Road, and FM 1101 between FM 306 and SH 123. 

The Big Picture

TxDOT has been working on putting together a study on SH 46 that will study the highway between New Braunfels and Seguin, Webb said. 

TxDOT regional director for transportation, planning and development Jonathan Bean said the study has just been initiated and will help TxDOT come up with some suggested solutions. 

“We are just beginning that effort,” Bean said.

Leaders have known for a while they need to push for expanding SH 46, but it’s about periodization, Bean said. 

“We’re in the early phases where we look at both the existing and projected traffic volumes and look at what can be done to help alleviate it,” Bean said. “It’s a many-months long process that will involve the public.”

TxDOT has a continual planning process and works with AAMPO, who works with the cities and counties. 

“Some of these (road) issues are more local issues,” Bean said. 

The group will likely continue to meet as needed, to coordinate efforts for the region, said Garry Ford, engineer for the city of New Braunfels. 

“It’s a group effort making sure we’re coordinating as agencies and working to manage growth and mobility, as well as to identify needs and work together to support each other,” Ford said. “We don’t want Seguin doing their own thing and (New Braunfels) doing something different — it’s a regional effort.”

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